NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — There are efforts to address health care disparities with a new healthcare center and plans for a new hospital in North Nashville.
The wheels are in motion to build a new location for Nashville General Hospital. According to NGH CEO Dr. Joseph Webb, the lease for their current location will expire in 2027. A feasability study was done to see whether it was best to remain where they are now on the campus of Meharry Medical College or move to a new address altogether. He explained that the existing hospital was built in the early 1970s, so it would require major renovation to bring it up to code and you can’t fix issues with the limited space. Over the years, the hospital has focused on providing equitable healthcare.
“I think we are making amazing advances because of the model that we utilize at Nashville General Hospital towards addressing health equity and health disparities,” said Dr. Webb. “Our mission is to improve the health and wellness of Nashville by providing equitable access by providing coordinated and patient-centered care.”
NGH leaders decided to pursuit building a new hospital.
“The hospital’s a licensed 150 bed hospital. There are some services we’d like to add that we’re providing now — just not in the most optimal setting,” said Dr. Webb.
Those services include skilled nursing, behavioral health care and expanding women’s health services.
“Expanding women’s health services is critical because one of those areas of health disparities lies within women’s health. Maternal mortality — we’ve all heard the recent reports on that. Infant mortality – that number has been around for a while. That number is probably still in double digits particularly for African Americans. That is just not acceptable,” said Dr. Webb. “With proper prenatal care, with proper overall comprehensive care for our black and brown and also some marginalized populations that healthcare is absolutely necessary.”
He said their cancer care program is the second oldest in Tennessee and they hope to make it more comprehensive at the new hospital location. They’d also remain the index teaching hospital for Meharry Medical College, with goals of having students at other schools have access to learning in the NGH population.
“We do represent a unique population as the only essential hospital in the city – some people refer to it as a public hospital,” said Dr. Webb, adding about 60% of their base is paying patients while the rest are indigent who are supported by funding from Metro Nashville government based on its charter. “They had a different type of pathology oftentimes than you would find in the private system. So it really does make for a good opportunity for students to learn how to deal with a more diverse population.”
He said they’ve acquired an owners’ representative and are meeting with interested financing groups to get funding to build the new hospital by 2026.
“The funding model would be a 30 year lease, a master lease, financed by private financing,” said Dr. Webb. “Once that’s resolve and fast forward the hospital is built, we’re not asking the city to cover the cost of this new building. We’re not asking them to bond this. The city would continue to serve as the guarantor, which is what has happened over the last 30 years.”
A townhall meeting is being held Tuesday starting 6:30 pm at First Baptist Church Capitol Hill. People have until 5:00 p.m. Monday to submit their questions.
Plans for a new hospital come as a new healthcare facility is opening in Bordeaux later this year. Dr. Webb said Bordeaux has been essentially a healthcare desert, meaning residents in the community don’t have adequate access to healthcare. He said he didn’t quite expect this designation as a graduate of Tennessee State University who knows the neighborhood all too well.
“During that period of time and in those days I recognize that Bordeaux was a very vibrant community. And to not have substantial healthcare located in that proximity was somewhat of a surprise to me upon my return to Nashville,” said Dr. Webb. “There’s a dearth of healthcare available to that population. They have to travel over into the midtown area in order to get adequate healthcare. That in itself can feed into health disparities.”
That’s why the “Nashville Healthcare Center Bordeaux” is vital. It’s opening on Clarksville Highway across from the Kroger plaza. It’ll be an ambulatory facility that will house an urgent care center that’s also open after hours and on the weekends. It will also have a full service imaging center that will offer MRI’s, CT’s, ultrasound and X-rays. Additionally, the new facility will allow services to primary care physicians, internal medicine, and specialty care.
It’s all aimed at addressing healthcare disparities highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There need not be any other questions about whether or not that population is affected disproportionately. That answered the question for us,” said Dr. Webb. “Now the only challenge we have is what are we going to do about it? And it’s not just having a proliferation of healthcare organizations or the business of healthcare it is about the actual care delivery.”